A Brief Guide to Cultural Appropriation at Halloween as Written for Stupid Americans

In the United States of America, an increasing number of citizens are worried that they may choose the wrong Halloween costume for themselves, or their children. Clearly this is not evidence of people living such rich, pampered, lazy, privileged, self-indulgent lives that they can afford to obsess about trivialities. Instead, this trend demonstrates that many American individuals are reaching a new level of refined ethical sensibility that requires them to wisely devote several hours of quiet contemplation to all the ways party clothing may wrongly glorify the appropriation of other cultures. But these individuals still want to look good and signal that they know how to laugh at themselves. This can lead to an intolerable form of anxiety that psychologists now refer to as Beingupyourownahole.

In fact, such individuals will have noticed the deliberate mistake made in the opening paragraph, which refers to them as Americans (two continents, named after an Italian, total population of 1 billion people, most of whom speak Spanish) when they are only USAers (half a continent, no handy collective noun because their country is made of lots of states named after lots of different white Europeans, total population 300 million, most of whom speak a culturally superior version of English). I ask that those individuals forgive me for briefly appropriating the word ‘American’ to aid communication with the many USAers who still fail to correctly label their own nationality.

The new breed of USAers are leading the world to peace and harmony via at least thirty woke tweets per day, but this can leave them short of the time they need to address other important matters. Even the most sensitive USAer sometimes faces a tough party deadline when confronted with big decisions about whether their seven year old daughter can dress as a princess because she really likes sequins and tiaras but is unwittingly reinforcing gender stereotypes and implicitly endorsing caste-based social hierarchies. As a consequence, more and more USAers are turning to internet guides that quickly explain what they can wear on Halloween (see here, here, here, here, and here). However, it has come to my attention that most of these guides are woefully inadequate. Though they correctly assert it is wrong to put on blackface, or to dress as a Navajo brave, or to wear an Arab dishdasha, or to appear even vaguely Mexican, they fail to address many other examples of blatant and insulting cultural appropriation. So here is the complete guide to what USAers may and may not wear at Halloween.


A belief in the reanimated dead stems from Haitian folklore, and the Vodou religion in particular. Obviously you cannot dress as a zombie without appropriating Haitian culture.


Vampires are stereotyped as thin white people who lived in castles, dressed in cloaks and were minor members of the Transylvanian aristocracy. Even if you are descended from Count Dracula himself this would still count as a severe case of cultural misappropriation, as well as being deeply disrespectful to the folklore of 18th century Eastern Europe. You may not dress as a vampire.


“Arrr! Shiver me timbers! Unless you batten down them hatches we’ll soon lay in Davy Jones’ Locker, me hearties!” Clearly use of the so-called ‘pirate’ dialect is cultural appropriation, unless you possess a genuine West Country accent because you are actually from Somerset. So you may dress like a pirate but you cannot talk like one.


Have you listened to a speech at the Forum Romanum? Do you even know three words of Latin? Of course not. And nobody wants to see your stained bedsheets anyway.

Frankenstein’s Monster

Just because Boris Karloff and James Whale went to Hollywood and did some cultural appropriation in the 1930’s does not give you permission to continue their desecration of Mary Shelley’s gothic novel. I bet you have never even seen a genuine pitchfork, and have never once been chased through the night by the torch-wielding anti-scientific inhabitants of a European village.


Do not even think of going there. Real people were tortured and murdered because others accused them of being in league with Satan. The misogyny should be obvious, and the glorification of witchcraft is insulting to both the Christians who sincerely believe witchcraft exists and to the atheists who think Christians are superstitious dullards for believing witchcraft exists. And about a quarter of witches were men, so the stereotypes are doubly sexist, and you risk offending everybody. Even Harry Potter is an icon of witchcraft, so you would be wise to burn all of JK Rowling’s books and any merchandise from those movies. Though the books have been read and enjoyed by half a billion people, that is no excuse for culturally appropriating the worst parts of the 16th and 17th centuries.


If you are really Jewish, and you respect the Shabbat, and can quote chunks of the Torah, then maybe you can dress as a golem. But be wary of cultural appropriation, because however orthodox you are, there is always a Jew that is more orthodox than you.


Never mind the blarney about having a great-grandmother from Tipperary, because dilution means you have as much of Ireland pumping through your veins as somebody who just drank a pint of Guinness. Can you speak Gaeilge? (Repeatedly saying the word ‘craic’ does not count towards your linguistic proficiency.) Have you ever handled a bodhrán? Would you know what to do with a hurley? Have you even seen a single game of rugby? If the answer to these questions is ‘no’ then you have the same right to Irish culture as the average US President: none whatsoever. And leprechauns are the most tedious element of Irish folklore anyway.

Fat Slobs in T-Shirts, Baseball Caps and Sweatpants

Cheap loose-fitting clothes are the epitome of US culture, so you are welcome to enjoy Halloween by dressing like stereotypical USAers. Doing so will give you the confidence that you will not offend anyone from a different culture, because this is what foreigners expect from the citizens of your country. To make the most of your appearance, adopt the lumbering gait of somebody aimlessly shambling around a shopping mall whilst chewing twelve sticks of gum and carrying an extra large soda. However, be careful to avoid looking too like the zombies in Dawn of the Dead, as that would also count as appropriation of Haitian culture. Though it might seem boring that your outfit consists of the same clothes you wear every other day, the upside is that this is the most terrifying Halloween costume of all, because it accurately reflects the USA’s influence on cultures worldwide.

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